Computation versus consciousness

Went out with a friend last night, my rental business property manager who has become a good friend. He’s a character, like something out of a novel. He’s been a music agent/producer for Grammy winners, an LA real estate developer who rubbed shoulders with the stars, and now he’s a KY horseman. Like me he grew tired of the population density in Socal, and in his case grew tired of the cutthroat business of catering to celebrities. Now based here in Louisville as a property manager, he’s refurbishing a mid-century modern home up in Oldham County on a big property overlooking the Ohio, a property he shares with a horse, a miniature donkey and multiple dogs. And his current ride (aside from the horse) is the sweetest-looking 66 Corvette convertible I’ve ever seen. An absolute classic.

David has stories that just go on forever – he’s opinionated and has led a very interesting life. We spent the evening at a couple of watering holes up in his neighborhood, talked music and argued over whether machines will take over the world. That led to a long discussion about consciousness and why the things media/marketing types are calling AI aren’t intelligent at all, and have no near term possibility of becoming our machine overlords.

Computation versus consciousness is one of my favorite topics lately. We’re now capable of building machines that have so much computing ability that they can mimic human responses quite well. But that doesn’t make them “intelligent” – consciousness, self awareness, and autonomy are completely different things. Even defining consciousness is difficult. Religious folks just wave their hands and call it a soul, that thing that animates our meat bodies. Who knows, they might be right, because no one so far can define that thing that causes us to be self aware and capable of autonomous action.

I’m developing the opinion (theory?) that consciousness is the result of a very specific type of organic processor (aka a brain, a complex organic neural network) interacting with space-time via quantum effects. Maybe entanglement, maybe other as-yet unknown quantum interactions.

That theory isn’t much better defined than the hand-waving about souls, though there’s some hope of actually understanding things if consciousness is related to (or created by) quantum interactions. Sadly, I don’t think this will be sorted out in my meatspace lifetime.

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